FAMILIES are unable to access free childcare places in their chosen nurseries under a flagship Scottish Government initiative, according to a snapshot survey.

Under SNP legislation, families are entitled to a mandatory 600 hours of funded early learning and childcare for three and four-year-olds.

Councils deliver the policy by using part of their overall block grant to provide enough free places in state nurseries - or by funding partnership providers in the private sector if they cannot meet the demand themselves.

However, a survey by parents from the Fair Funding for Our Kids campaign has shown more than a thousand children in just two areas surveyed are unable to secure funded places at the private partnership nurseries they attend.

In Glasgow, the survey showed that of 1608 eligible children at 47 private partnership nurseries only 873 had secured funding, leaving a shortfall of 743 without the promised support.

In West Lothian, 673 eligible children were identified at 23 partnership and private nurseries, but only 335 had funding - leaving 338 children attending nursery without a funded place.

The figures are in stark contrast to Scottish Government claims that there is near universal uptake, with 98.5 per cent registration for places.

Jenny Gorevan, a spokeswoman for the campaign group in Glasgow, said the concerns would be raised in a meeting with Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister, and Angela Constance, the Education Secretary.

In February, Ms Sturgeon insisted her government had delivered on its childcare pledge and blamed Labour-controlled Glasgow City Council for the issues.

However, campaigners argue the problem is more widespread and highlighted a recent General Election photo opportunity where the First Minister posed with children at a private nursery in West Lothian where, it has subsequently emerged, not all families are receiving their full childcare entitlement.

Ms Gorevan said: "There is a great deal of smoke and mirrors around what the Scottish Government says about the free nursery policy.

"Our concerns are that no-one is on top of how it is being delivered and the money that the Government says it is investing in childcare is being diverted elsewhere.

"We have been campaigning for a year and nothing has happened. There are now children who will start school having missed out on all the funding they were ever going to get."

Kelda Bryson, a spokeswoman for the campaign group in West Lothian, added: "We got so frustrated listening to politicians say the free nursery policy has universal uptake against our own experience that we decided to survey partnership nurseries ourselves. So far the figures are bleak."

However, a spokesman for Cosla, the umbrella body for councils, said local authorities were committed to ensuring all eligible children received quality early learning and childcare.

He said: "To deliver a sufficient number of quality places local authorities are also committed to working with partner providers in the private and voluntary sectors.

"It is a concern to us that a completely market driven approach to determine pre-school places would make it harder for local authorities to ensure that the quality of learning and care continues to improve."

A Scottish Government spokesman said it was "fully funding" local authorities for the additional costs of the policy based on figures agreed with Cosla, with annual increases to enable local authorities to increase flexibility.

He added: "It is for local authorities to manage their own budgets and to allocate funding on the basis of local needs and priorities. However, local authorities must fulfil their statutory obligations to secure adequate high quality childcare provision in their areas.

"While we are not aware of any situation where a local authority is unable to meet its statutory obligations we have agreed to look more closely at how we monitor and evaluate implementation of the policy."